According to the National Hurricane Center, Tropical Storm Isaac could soon turn into a Hurricane, and forecasters say the storm is moving westward across the Atlantic on a track that could possibly take it toward Florida. While it’s still too soon to determine the storm’s exact path, it’s never too early to prepare. Hurricane preparedness isn’t just about protecting your family and property against the effects of extreme wind and rain. It’s also about creating a plan ahead of time by organizing the important documents you might need in case of an emergency.
- Check your insurance – Review all current insurance policies before the storm season, especially flood or property insurance. A policy that was written several years ago may not reflect the value of your home today, especially if you’ve made additions or renovations. Inquire if any home, health, or other insurance policy you may have will pay for temporary shelter, replacement clothing, furniture, or other items if you are affected by a hurricane.
- Renters Insurance – If you are a renter, it is a good idea to purchase renters insurance. This may come as a shock to you, but most landlord tenant leases do not protect your personal property in the event of a hurricane. It is a common misperception among renters that they are covered by their landlord’s insurance. Your landlord’s insurance is not going to protect your personal property- it only protects the building. It is a very good idea for you to buy renters insurance. This policy will pay you if your personal property is damaged or stolen. Renters insurance can cover fire and smoke damage, theft, vandalism, damage from windstorms and hail, damage from explosions, water damage from plumbing problems, and many other hazards. It also protects you from liability if an accident happens in your home and may pay your temporary living expenses if an emergency forces you to leave your home.
- Take an inventory of your property – Take an inventory of your personal property, such as clothes, jewelry, furniture, computers and audio/video equipment, and document it with photos and/or a video. Keep sales receipts in a safe place along with the model and the serial numbers of the items in your household. This will make filing a post hurricane/disaster insurance claim much simpler.
- Secure your documents – Secure all of your important documents and valuables in a safe location and store them in waterproof containers, or in a safe deposit box. This includes but is not limited to birth certificates, marriage certificates, social security cards, passports, and automobile and homeowners insurance documents. If evacuation is required, take the items with you.
- Flood proof your home – Flood zones are rated on a standard used by most federal and state agencies. How likely is it that a flood will hit your home? Use the online Flood Zone Finder to determine the risk level for your home. If you live in a flood zone, find out whether you can do anything to flood proof your home now. Also, purchase flood insurance and visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s floodsmart.gov to obtain more information. There is a 30-day waiting period before flood insurance goes into effect, so don’t delay.
- Flood proof your business – Most standard insurance policies do not cover flood damage and the resulting loss of income. Flood insurance is available to homeowners, renters, condo owners/renters, and commercial owners/renters. Costs vary depending on how much insurance is purchased, what it covers, and the property’s flood risk. Coverage for your building and contents is available. Typically, there’s a 30-day waiting period from date of purchase before your policy goes into effect. That means now is the best time to buy flood insurance. A disaster-ready business will be able to recover faster and suffer less financial loss. In addition, develop a business continuity plan by determining the processes and equipment needed to keep your business open. You may want to prepare a photo/video inventory of assets and store in a safe location. In addition, consider emailing the inventory footage to a Web-based e-mail account for easy retrieval.
The Miami-Dade County’s Consumer Protection Section of the Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources, Business Affairs Division, encourages all residents to inform themselves about their rights as consumers as part of their preparation for the hurricane season. Consumers who are aware of their rights well in advance of any disaster, and of the scams which often follow in the wake of these events, will be better able to make informed choices. Click here to obtain more information on how you can protect yourself from consumer fraud in the event that a hurricane should strike South Florida.
For more consumer tips, or to check the complaint history of a company, file a complaint or ask consumer-related questions, visit the department website at www.miamidade.gov/business, or call (305) 375-3677.